A question

3 05 2020

Someone asked in the comments:

If anything, I’d just like to ask you a question (which you might have addressed in earlier entries, so sorry for redundancy): do you think Christianity necessarily leads to our secular age? In your engagement and critique of Christianity, you’ve always traced the “crisis” of the Catholic Church and Western spirituality to its roots, i.e., the materialism and laxity of today are almost the system developing naturally. Do you think that needs to be the case, or is there a way to avoid those pitfalls of Christianity while retaining the “core” (whatever that is)?

I stated recently that I don’t believe in smoking guns. Nothing leads inevitably to anything else. You’re not breaking into the mind of God and stealing its secrets. On the other hand, one can question the radical break between religion and secularism as it manifests itself in the life of the common person. At least at a very superficial level, we still have a god, we still have magic, and we still deal with forces we don’t understand. It’s just different is all. One reason why I gave up writing for a time other than just being really, really busy, was that my attempt to merge folk Catholicism and Neoplatonism hit a dead end at the beginning of last decade. I ran out of things to say, started some projects and jettisoned those as well, etc. Only recently have I developed the intellectual and moral clarity to say something again. I am not sure how long this will last.

But the impasse came from that realization of secularism as a religion, and the inability to break out of that religion through political or cultural rebellion, or personal transgression. Is it the same as Christianity? Parts of it are an organic growth from it, but honestly, it has other roots, such as Ioan Couliano’s describing the influence of Renaissance magic on the development of modern science. Why does the modern person look at the cosmos and see a “what” instead of a “who”? It either developed that way, or it happened all of a sudden (as if someone just flipped a switch), or it has always been that way. It may be indicative of a deeper malaise of who and what we are in our deepest being.

My breakthrough out of impersonalism was to realize that all knowledge is personal because it is the product of the person. It only takes place in the context of the personal. The Subject / Object distinction is ultimately one of control: I make something an “it” so it becomes an instrument of my will and enjoyment. It is the canvass on which I paint my subjectivity. Ultimately, all of that is frustrated and we continuously struggle until we die and disappear (supposedly).

The issue of Christianity is that it tries to work through this process within matter. That is the essence of history: a meaningful procession of events toward a climax and resolution (Omega point, to cite Teilhard de Chardin). There is obvious talk of “salvation history”: perhaps channeling Rene Girard, history is supposed to be “anti-tragedy”. If the tragic hero is destroyed by fate in spite of acting rightly, the Christian message abolishes the idea of fate altogether. A loving God wipes the tears from every face and brings all to a resolution through smashing the violent wheel of the eternal return with the Cross and Resurrection. Everything is thus meaningful in that “theodrama” (Hans Urs Von Balthasar, haven’t read that work, but it’s a good title). Even the slaughtered child and pauper dying on the side of the road are redeemed through the judgment of History. All will be resolved in the eschaton. Good triumphs. There is resolution. There are happy endings.

I could force all that into saying that Christianity becomes decadent and transforms into secularism, but it’s much simpler than that. It’s about secularism and Christianity caring about history at all: it’s their field of battle. History is the prize they are contesting. And, to perhaps be a bit flippant about it, you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes. The issue isn’t cracking the laws of motion of history (a Marxist term) but realizing that history is a cheap shell game played by a two-bit street hustler. It’s hard to hear that your concern about the passing and decaying body is all for nought: the cheated doesn’t want to hear that he has been cheated, and will often double down in the face of the ruse. But here we are. You can continue to play or you can cash out. Either the world is an entirely serious thing to be contested, or it’s maya (not this, illusion). In my opinion, there is no middle ground. It’s not an issue of “What went wrong?” The issue that is that it was always wrong.

Now I understand some of the folks reading this really, really like Jesus and their Bibles. And honestly, that’s laudable. Things are more about advancement than getting things right. Stick with your love of Jesus and His Church. I’m just telling you why I see it as a dead end.

 

 


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2 responses

4 05 2020
Karl

A more Gnostic, anti-material Christianity would – possibly – be the only way out of that issue. But the whole ‘theology of the body’ and the sacralising of matter pushed by the CC since the 60s now rules that out as beyond contemplation.

4 05 2020
cal

Is the “catholicity” of the Catholic Church why you still remain? That it is a vehicle for this hindu-esque neoplatonist pov, or is it just inertia and your own personal history that keeps you going?

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